Tavares Jurineack and Greg Walls can be loud with their play on the field and words off it.
By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002
TAMPA -- A lot of noise accompanies Greg Walls and Tavares Jurineack. Most of it from their mouths.
South Florida's menacing tandem of senior defensive tackles has a lot to say almost all of the time about many things.
Jurineack is the entertainer. He conjures impromptu, comedy-laced freestyle raps on a whim, delivering rhymes and verses about whatever is happening at the moment.
"He's real good, and he's funny," Walls said. "We'll come in from a hard day of practice, and he'll rap about how hot it is, how the coaches are on us, how it feels good to go home. He basically can rap about anything, whatever's going on."
"I'm his roommate, and he raps all the time," defensive end Chris Daley said. "He's pretty good, but sometimes, I have to tell him to shut up."
Walls, nicknamed "Baby Sapp," is boisterous like the Bucs' Warren Sapp but not as corrosive. He is Sapp Lite.
"Greg is the loudest guy in the group. He stands out the most," Jurineack said. "He's a real jokester. He's the comedy guy, always saying something."
"I've got a loud voice, I guess," Walls said. "I've been loud all my life."
Together, Jurineack and Walls have put silence into retirement and rendered peace and quiet heavy underdogs.
They put opposing teams in a similar position. Walls and Jurineack aren't all rhetoric. They can play, too.
Last season, Walls (6 feet 2, 288 pounds) had 67 tackles, a team-best 16 tackles for loss and 51/2 sacks. Jurineack (6-2, 290) had 52 tackles, 10 for loss.
"(USF was) second in the nation in sacks last year (with 3.64 per game)," Walls said. "We want people to know that wasn't a fluke, that we're for real."
In a 51-10 season-opening victory over Florida Atlantic Aug. 29, Walls had three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Jurineack had two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Jurineack, who usually lines up at nose tackle, can bench press 485 pounds. With a thick midsection, he's hard to dislodge. And he gets faster every year, recently running a sub-5.0 second 40 yards.
"He's a very, very tough kid, and he's very strong," defensive line coach Earl Lane said. "He's one of the nicest, most fun-loving kids off the field, but he knows how to turn the switch."
Walls has a knack for timing the snap and exploding into the backfield. He typically lines up at 3-technique, a position just to the side of the nose tackle, but his upper-body strength has improved so much that he and Jurineack are interchangeable.
"Greg's got a great first step," Lane said. "He has the quickness, and he's become a student of the game. They're both smart football players."
Jurineack's musical comedy routine belies a seriousness cultivated through adversity. He sat out his first season because of an insufficient test score, and he missed the next after a car crash. Jurineack fell asleep at the wheel during the summer of 1999 and awoke with a chipped hip bone, two severely injured knees and his tongue stapled together.
"I thank the Lord every day that I have this opportunity," he said.
Walls arrived that fall from Sarasota Booker High and has been a regular in the lineup since. He has led USF in tackles for loss the past two seasons.
"They're very good leaders for us," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "They're a lot of fun to coach, a pleasure to be around."
Walls and Jurineack are impact players, but they didn't start last season that way. The Bulls lost the season opener 20-17 at Northern Illinois.
And NIU's rally from a 17-7 deficit was fueled by hard running by Thomas Hammock into the teeth of the defense, Walls and Jurineack.
"It was the first game of the season, and we just didn't know what we had yet," Walls said.
Since then, the interior defense has inflicted the damage. During the next game, a 35-26 victory at Pittsburgh, Walls repeatedly ripped into the backfield and recorded three sacks.
A shot at redemption awaits Saturday, when USF hosts NIU.
"In the critical moments of the game last year, we just didn't get it done," Walls said. "We have high goals this year, and I know we're ready."